Consumer electronics remain important to Industrial Molding Corp. Plastics, but now it is diversifying aggressively into household consumer products and industrial applications.
IMC's television cabinet business has declined as competing molders have invested in border-region facilities near customers, mostly in northern Mexico, and engaged in price cutting.
``As we go forward, the consumer electronics industry — TV — is becoming a smaller part of our market array,'' said Tony Fanelli, general manager of the company's Rancho Dominguez, Calif., facility.
Ron Thomas, IMC controller, said IMC has not committed to or dismissed the idea of manufacturing in Mexico, but signs show it is moving in other directions.
IMC is seeking business with better profit margins, targeting consumer products such as home entertainment sound systems and game systems with large, cosmetic enclosures.
The custom injection molder is broadening its customer base, upgrading process-control capabilities and using more-refined molding techniques. Also, IMC is boosting engineering, support and sales and marketing, promoting value-added services and exploring creative proprietary work.
Ownership changed in late 1997, and a new chief executive officer arrived in April.
IMC needs to get its name out front and look for other markets, Thomas said by telephone.
He said IMC is investing about $250,000 for plastics-industry-specific software from Data Technical Research Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., and a related Windows NT platform.
Initial staff training begins in mid-August, and the introduction of financial software coincides with the Nov. 1 fiscal year. Full integration at IMC's plants in Rancho Dominguez; Tualatin, Ore.; and Pendergrass, Ga., is scheduled for April.
Each plant can use gas-assist processes from Gain Technologies Inc. of Sterling Heights, Mich., or Cinpres Ltd. of Tamworth, England. IMC licenses both so customers may choose technology.
``Times are difficult now for all molders,'' Fanelli said. ``Those successful are taking steps to redefine their business.''
The California plant employs about 200 and has 24 presses.
In late July, the Oregon facility added four robot-equipped Toshiba presses — a 90-ton and three 60-tonners — for new precision molding work, said plant manager Sam Moran.
The Oregon site employs 80 and has 16 pressess. It is recovering, as are other nearby molders, from a major customer's relocation of work to Singapore and Guadalajara, Mexico, Moran said.
Soon, an IMC engineer will work one day a week at a customer's design department, Moran said. The new program's aim is to get in at the idea phase.
The Georgia facility, in particular, is diversifying and adding resources, said Ken Hayden the plant's manager.
The plant mostly molds automotive interior parts, consumer electronics cases and housings, and components for lawn and garden products, Hayden said.
The Georgia plant employs 85 and operates 13 presses.
Growth of other work is offsetting the TV business that IMC lost with the March closure of Mitsubishi's Braselton, Ga., plant. Hayden expects to add at least 25 employees by year's end. Service lines for as many as 10 more presses are being installed.
Robert Kniss is IMC's president and CEO. He was an executive with Becker Group Inc.
IMC reported fiscal 1997 sales of about $60 million.